Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 15: The Future

"Are you digging a hole to China?"
"I think that's racist."

Miranda July is a multimedia performance artist who broke into filmmaking with 2005's Me and You and Everyone We Know, a movie which I rather enjoyed. Her follow-up effort as writer/director/star is 2011's The Future. If you've seen Me and You... then it should come as no surprise to you when I say that there are sections of the film narrated by a cat or that the character of Jason can freeze time. This is a movie that wears its quirks on its sleeves as badges of honor and treats the abnormal as banal and the banal as abnormal.

Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater) have decided to adopt a cat (the one who narrates sections of the film, the voice of whom is also provided by July). The cat needs to stay in the hospital for a month with a broken paw and the vet tells them that if they nurture and care for the cat, it could live for up to five more years. The thought of having a day in-day out commitment for the next five years forces them to reexamine their lives and how stuck in routine they are. They both quit their jobs (he's in tech support, she's a children's dance teacher) and decide to be spontaneous for the next thirty days, and they embrace this spontaneity in totally different ways. The fact that a nominal task like caring for a cat would force these people to completely re-order their lives and turn everything upside down says more about them than I ever could.

Sexuality is handled very strangely in her films, more-so in her first film than this one, but she's definitely not interested in people with normal sex lives. Sophie begins having an affair with the much older Marshall (David Warshofsky) seemingly for no other reason than she's bored. The first time we see them have sex, it's bizarre and borderline brutal, but she definitely enjoys it and begins to have feelings for him.

Jason takes a volunteer job working as an environmental door-to-door solicitor. He becomes friends with an old man from whom he purchases a hair dryer. He discovers his ability to freeze time, but it appears he can only freeze time for himself, it keeps going for everyone else. This makes a lot more sense when you see it than it does trying to explain it.

It's an odd movie, but it's got a lot going on for as seemingly stagnant it is. It's about weird people that you can somehow relate to. It's like the old adage about freak shows and people being attracted and repulsed by them because they see the "freaks" as not so different from themselves. I'm not saying that there's a huge difference between myself and the characters in this movie, but I certainly hope that I have my shit together more than these people do. They want to embrace change and be spontaneous, but they take such ridiculous and measured risks that they don't change at all.

One scene in particular says more about the mundaneness of life than any I've seen in recent memory. Sophie takes up a job as a receptionist at her old dance studio when there are no other openings available to teach again. Two friends of hers come in, both of whom are pregnant, and they begin a conversation with Sophie. Every time the reverse shot cuts back to her friends, their kids age, until finally it's two adults standing there and the mothers are gone. It's everyone's nightmare that they're going to be stuck in some dead end job while everyone around them grows and changes. It's a beautiful microcosm of the movie as a whole and speaks volumes. Perhaps it's the reason July is a much more effective filmmaker when working on shorts because she can sum things up succinctly and beautifully, but when stretched to feature length, her films have a habit of over-explaining or dragging out the point.

I enjoyed this film a great deal and feel it's definitely worth your time if you're not turned off by the strange things she does as a filmmaker. Give yourself over to something new, the way the characters do, and you just may find yourself surprised. At the very least, you'll turn out better than they do.
Tomorrow's film will be Peter Jackson's 1994 film Heavenly Creatures with Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet.

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